HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Screening Of Soldiers Uncovers Illegal Use Of Drugs
Pubdate: Fri, 24 Nov 2006
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2006, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Gloria Galloway


OTTAWA -- Canadian Troops Being Sent to Afghanistan in February Are 
Being Tested for Illegal Drug Use -- and About 5 Per Cent Are Failing.

The 2,300 Canadian Forces personnel, most of them from CFB Gagetown 
in New Brunswick, are the first group to be checked for illicit drugs 
since the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, announced 
last November that the inspections would take place.

Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium and the military 
does not want to send people who already have problems into that 
environment. More than that, it needs troops who are in full control 
of their faculties.

But it took some time to get the testing program up and running and 
two deployments have left for the war zone without being checked for 
drug use since Gen. Hillier's Safety Sensitive Drug Testing Directive 
was issued.

Commander Denise LaViolette, a military spokesman, said yesterday 
that the testing of the next group to be sent to Afghanistan began in 
September and, as of mid-November, 1,396 people -- both reservists 
and regular troops -- had gone through the program. The rest will get 
their tests in the coming weeks.

Of the tests completed so far, 95 per cent were negative, Cdr. LaViolette said.

"Sixty-seven samples were positive for illicit drugs. In addition to 
those 67, there were a number of samples that were diluted. In the 
case of the diluted ones, we did retesting," she said.

The infractions have involved several different types of drug use but 
the military won't reveal the types of chemicals being found.

The troops discovered with diluted samples, which can indicate 
attempts to hide the evidence by drinking large amounts of water, 
were sent for retesting.

But prior to their second test, five people admitted to their 
commanders that they have been involved in illicit drug use, Cdr. 
LaViolette said.

"So, in total, 72 individuals or approximately 5 per cent either 
tested positive for illicit drugs or admitted to their use," she 
said. And another three who had diluted first samples tested positive 
on their second round.

While any drug use within the military is a concern, the levels of 
confirmed drug use are significantly lower than sources had 
previously alleged in interviews with other news media.

One newspaper reported in October that between 16 and 18 per cent of 
soldiers were testing positive for substances that included 
marijuana, speed, cocaine and even heroin.

Those who do test positive will not be subjected to a court-martial 
or any other type of police proceeding, Cdr. LaViolette said. The 
military cannot use that type of disciplinary action against people 
who have been forced to submit to drug tests.

Instead, they will undergo what is called an administrative review.

"The two actions that can result from an administrative review are 
counselling and probation or release from the Canadian Forces," Cdr. 
LaViolette said.

"We want to make sure that everybody is treated the same, that there 
are opportunities along the process for an individual to come forth 
with what they might feel is new information, and we want to make 
sure internally that people who are observing the process are also 
comfortable that this process is fair and equitable."

The military will consider a person's career, recommendations from 
his or her unit, previous behaviour and the type of drug used before 
determining whether the person will be released from the military.

But "all of these people have been removed from the rotation pending 
the results of the administrative review," Cdr. LaViolette said. And 
because the process will take some time, she said, none of those 
testing positive will be sent to Afghanistan in February.
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